Need help re: American medical system

I’m Canadian, so please forgive me for not understanding how the American medical system works, but I need help desperately. I have a friend in California whose husband is self-employed but not earning enough to support his family and they don’t have medical insurance. My friend is having an attack of kidney stones and is unable to afford to see a damned Dr., never mind getting the operation she needs.

She compares it being in labour 24/7 for a week now, temp of 107 and pain to the point where she felt herself leaving her body to seek some peace on the other side.

Surely to God there is something, anything, available to families in this situation. Isn’t this what your MediCare or MedicAid programs are? Or does one have to be on the street and on welfare to quality?

Putting their home up for mortage is out of the question, they just lost it, and are housing their kids in the garage her husband owns. True homelessness is not out of the question here.

I have heard such horror stories of families gone bankrupt paying for medical costs in extreme situations, and even routine events like having a baby can cost thousands.

It would be incredibly easy here to get into judgements about Canadian/American health care comparisons, but I just have to say I find it unbelievable that in this day and age, under the shadow of the banner “give us your tired, your weak, your huddled masses…” that this could be allowed to happen.

Does anyone please have any suggestions how I can help my friend? She is far from stupid, far from helpless, but it is difficult to swallow her pride and ask for help.

Short answer.
All she has to do is go to the nearest emergency room, they will not refuse to treat her. She can just stiff them, and the general public will pick up the tab like we do for everyone else who does not pay for the medical services they receive.

Slightly longer answer:

The United States has two federal aid programs, Medicare and Medicaid, predicated on need. Most states and municipalities either provide help of their own and/or shell out to the Medicare/Medicaid fund.

Considering that financial circumstances probably lead to the loss of your friend’s house, I would guess that she, her husband and children are eligible for aid.

Back to the short answer:

Send her to an emergency room. What she’s experiencing is more than enough to require treatment, and ERs have staff on hand whose sole purpose is to help patients navigate through the requirements and paperwork necessary to get aid.

I agree you can get medical care in the US, they cannot not treat you. However, they expect you to PAY for it eventually, no matter how much money you have.

Dept of Social Services can issue Medi-Cal but there is a shitload of paperwork.

Children in the US, until they are 18, get MediCal insurance, just ask any insurance agent worth his salt. They now offer MediCal insurance without having to visit DSS.

Nickrz is right. Your friend only has to go to the emergency room and she’ll be treated. I had kidney stones recently and, believe me, it definitely qualifies as an emergency. Thank God for Dilaudid.
Being left with a medical bill you can’t pay is not the same as being unable to access medical care. If you need emergency or lifesaving care in the United States, you’re pretty much going to get it. And if you get a bill for it because you don’t have insurance, what’s wrong with that? No one ever said things have to be free just because they’re important.
– Greg

And hospitals don’t generally sue you and take away everything you own to get their money back, at least in some jurisdictions. Last year hospitals ate over 30 billion dollars in bad debt. That’s almost 1/3 of what the federal government paid out in hospital assistance.

The hospitals aren’t “eating” that debt. We pay for it with those seven-dollar Tylenols and exhorbitant health insurance premiums.

Medical debt is also considered in a different light by creditors than say, credit card debt.
I easily explained away an old hospital bill on my credit report to possible mortgage lenders, but did have to eventually pay it off.

10 years ago I spent a night in the hospital on an emergency basis. I thought I had health insurance, but the company was not really there (check out your insurance company independently of the sales person).

One night with a painkiller, x-rays and an IV came to $3000. Once it was established that my insurance didn’t work, I realized I had to pay it off. As long as you pay them something monthly, they generally won’t go for your credit record. I was broke at the time, so I just sent in $20-$25 a month until it was gone.

It is true that ERs have to treat you in an emergency room, but ONLY if it is a true life threatening emergency.
I went through a kidney stone about 9 years ago. I went to a lot of ERs that refused to treat me. They said, though the pain was severe, it wasn’t life threatening and they refered me to Cook County Hospital (our public hospital). Once at Cook County they told me to take a seat it could be anywhere from 1 to 3 days. (Obviously they treated the more severe emergencies first)

I finally found a hospital after looking and driving in pain for a day in Indiana that treated me for free.

So it does take doing. Also if a hospital gives you treatment, they can go after you for their money, including garnishing your wages.

There is no “free” medical here in the states. I worked for a hospital in the South Suburbs of Chicago and they would perform your basic patch work on their emergencies and ship you out to the Catholic hospital asap.

I once went to an ER with a very acute kidney stone. I had private insurance then, but they insisted in making sure of that before I could get anything to kill the pain. It seemed like that took 1/2 an hour, but it probably was only about 4 min.

Recently, while having only Medicare and no job, I went to the ER at Alta Bates in Berkeley, CA-US with dizzy spells I thought could possibly be a serious problem, because I’d never had them before – though I really thought they were just some inner-ear effect from the excessively wet El Niño weather here, which they apparently were. I didn’t want to drive and decided to walk the 2 or 3 mi, figuring I’d at least be found if the problem incapacitated me. I was treated in the ER, but by using excessive heart monitoring and stuff, by a separate rip-off MD group there, but not referred to a useful ENT MD, so I rejected all their bills to me. I assume Medicare paid them, even though I sent them evidence that the whole thing was a rip-off. They soon gave up billing me. I don’t know how that sort of thing affects my credit, because I practically never get involved in credit. I did, however, get a quite small loan from my credit union thereafter, without any trouble.


[off-topic rant]
Kidney stones may be an emergency in the US, but gallstones are not an emergency in New Zealand. Even though it feels like my stomach is being eaten alive, in fact it’s not dangerous to me and I must suffer those hours of pain writhing around fruitlessly.
[/off-topic rant]

“Waheeey! ‘Duck!’ Get it?”
“Errr… No…”
“Duck! Sounds almost exactly like fu-”

If the OP is reporting correctly, the person in question has a fever of 107. AFAIK, she should be dead already – the human body can only take that sort of temp for a few hours. Sustained fever of 105 or higher is most certainly life-threatening. There’s also some danger that a large or especially jagged stone could cause internal bleeding. Even if the facts have been exaggerated, I would say there’s no question of emergency here.

Hie thee to an emergency room. As everybody else has said, they can’t refuse treatment in this serious a case. Call an ambulance for transport – these cases are taken much more seriously, and the EMTs or paramedics (maybe even a rolling trauma doctor) may be able to provide some relief on the way.

The American medical system is generally in need of help. We don’t deny that. Fortunately, the worst abuses of the HMOs seem to be going away, leaving humane care in its wake. If we could get rid of all the frivolous malpractice lawsuits (and the tons of insurance doctors need to carry because of them), health care in the US would be affordable to all, or at least most.

Medicare and Medicaid are not emergency funds so much as they are general health assistance for those who can’t afford it. I always forget which is which, but one is for the elderly and goes with Social Security, the other is for the impoverished. One of the problems with the system is there is a huge gap between the people who are officially “poor enough” to qualify for government aid, and the level of income needed to reasonably afford a health plan of one’s own. Many employers offer some kind of health plan, either as a free benefit or at a reduced cost. Many, but not all.

The American medical system also works very well despite all its flaws, and we have the highest standard of care in the world. Bar none. Socialized medicine has its advantages, but you generally get lower-quality doctors, chronic shortages of supplies, and long long waiting periods for even routine care, let alone the serious stuff. And let’s not forget about the crushing tax rates needed to support fully-socialized medical systems.

Forgive my ranting. It’s too early in the day for me to have my morals and ehtics sorted out. I hope your friend gets the help she needs. I’ll shut up now.

–Da Cap’n

All medical systems are non-free-market and controlled by MD organizations manipulating government. MDs are educated in the most archaic of practical-knowledge-imparting schemes, and problems with HMOs are the result of the past excesses of MDs and their organizations. American medicine as “the best in the world” is MD propaganda based on the more exotic capabilities of the profession and its expensive armada. The US deserves its lousy health-care system, given that it continually swallows medical propaganda without checking on the vast range of absurdity, and even criminality, that exists in the practices of American physicians today.